ASHBURN, Va. - Nearly two dozen staff members at a senior care facility in Virginia walked off the job concerned for their safety amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The executive director at Waltonwood in Ashburn confirmed that 23 employees are on emergency leave, the majority of them work as part of the dining services team and are mostly high school students.
Waltonwood has had one resident die due to COVID-19. They currently have two positive cases – one of those is a resident. All residents have been isolating in their apartments and working closely with the Loudoun County Health Department.
While the executive director says their care teams have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and all employees must wear masks. But that didn't stop 23 employees from leaving.
"What has happened in some of these facilities is that the staff has not had enough personal protective equipment to feel comfortable that they won't transfer something to their families if they were to get sick," said Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair, Phyllis J. Randall.
She adds, "The moment we found out about this facility a phone call was made and our Health Director started getting on that right away."
Randall said they are working with the state to get proper PPE for Waltonwood workers who may not have been properly equipped. On a daily basis, her office says the county is reviewing the requests for PPE that they receive and reviewing the available inventory so that they can respond to the requests as quickly as possible.
Randall also added that the bidding war over PPE between states and localities needs to stop.
Charlene Harrington, an RN and adjunct professor at University of San Francisco's School of nursing, who has studied senior care facilities for 30 years says right now states and counties need to put their focus on protecting these essential workers.
"It's highly stressful, because so many staff people, and residents are asymptomatic, so you don't know who has it. That's why infection control is important, you must treat everyone as if they have it. That involves a lot more work, stress, it's extremely hard for the workers," said Harrington.
Meanwhile, Waltonwood Ashburn Executive Director Christopher Leinauer released the following statement in part:
"We continue to monitor the health of all residents and associates and have stringent protocols in place to help prevent the spread of the virus. Admissions to the community were stopped on March 16, care teams are wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE) when entering affected and/or suspected resident apartments and all employees are wearing masks. Our community has adequate PPE and is using it in accordance to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Additionally, the community has regular calls with the health department and is following guidance from the CDC. We continue to update residents and their family members as new information becomes available."